Monday, December 27, 2010

Day 70+

I'm not on my normal computer, and I'm not sure what day it far as counting goes. We haven't had internet at the Hogar for two weeks now. (That's a long and ridiculous story. I'll tell you another time when I have more than Q12 in my pocket and am paying for every minute.) Anyway, Christmas was good and fun and special. It was great watching the fireworks explode all over Guatemala city as Christmas Eve turned into Christmas.

Just letting you all know that I'm alive and safe and have plenty of stories to tell. Blessings to all of you. :)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Day 56

I was going to post this on Saturday, but then I was too tired. Then I was going to post it on Sunday, but I was feeling a little nauseous. So, here it is on Monday.

Saturday night, Alba (our cook here) invited me and a couple boys to go to a fiesta (party/celebration) in the village with her. It was a traditional celebration, something about the Virgin. It included a shrine, a parade, fireworks, and food. I think it's a typical Latin American thing. Anyway, after a little hassle getting permission for the boys to go and then after changing boys a couple times, we set out for the party. When we got there, there were people dancing in a circle wearing costumes. It reminded me a lot of the dances of the older people at pow-wows, but the costumes these people were wearing were those of contemporary super heroes and cartoon characters. (This is some cultural thing I haven't yet figured out.)

After the dancing was finished, they set off some fireworks. They were literally lit about 20 feet from where I was standing...and that's only because the guy lighting them told us to move because he was going to light them right where we were standing! (eek!) And they were exploding right over our heads. Nice experience, really, but not one I want to repeat.

After we survived that, they started the parade. The shrine started in the church at 7 pm and the slow walk out the door began. We walked with it for just about 3 minutes. The boys wanted to do the whole thing, but Alba said "no." In all fairness, I didn't want to do the whole thing either. She said it would end at 3 am, but at 4 am the noise of the parade woke me up. 9 hours of walking in 40 degree weather isn't high on my agenda.

We went back to get some food. I had churrascos (a sort of meat served with tortillas and what appeared to be cole slaw) and chuchitos (sort of like a fact, I'm not sure what the difference was), and we also had hot punch. As far as I can gather, it's their version of warm apple cider. I'll take it. :-P

When we were done eating, the boys and I walked back to the Hogar. Juan Elias kept putting his arm around me every time a vehicle passed us. I am aware that as an American female, I'm a little bit of a target around here. However, as a single American female, it is worse. So, Juan was making sure that I was as protected as I could be. Erick and Jorge were mostly oblivious to our entire walk home, but they all enjoy our trip.

Anyway, the boys are bugging me to come to breakfast; so I'll get headed out for now.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Day 54

(I've actually been mulling this post over for a few days; so some things may be lost.)

I have found that the Spanish I studied in high school and college is pretty much worthless. (No offense to any of you who might be reading this who taught me in those classes. You didn't know.) So, here is a Guatemalan Spanish lesson for all of you:

1. Agua
While "agua" still means "water," when someone offers you "agua," they might also be offering you coffee, soda pop, or juice. The word "bebida" (which means "drink") is not used and is on the verge of being archaic.

2. Chucho
For those of us who struggle with the dreaded "rr" or "rolled r," this word is a blessed relief. "Chucho" means "mutt dog," and in Guatemala, any dog I am likely to encounter will be of this variety. I am saved from using the dreaded "perro."

3. Novio
When I was originally taught this word, it meant "boyfriend." However, I was later taught that it meant something more like "fiance" and that the phrase "mi amigo" (my [male] friend) meant "boyfriend." The good news is that here in Guatemala, "novio" means boyfriend, and I don't have to tiptoe around talking about my friends.

(Okay, I'm positive I had about 5 of these. I guess I'll have to get back to all of you with the rest of these.)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Day 51

I was sitting at breakfast today trying to remember when I last updated; so I decided it was time for an update. The last 5 days have either been so slow that it wasn't worth saying much or so busy that I haven't had time to say anything. I guess the big news as of late is my two Grandes English classes. For the most part, they haven't been showing up. Yesterday, Estuardo asked me for a list of who showed up that day. In 2 classes, a total of 5 grandes had shown up, but the two in the first class just left partway through. I did not give them permission to leave. So, when Estuardo asked for a list, I gave him the names of the three boys who had come to the later class and stayed until I gave them permission to leave. My second class of Medianos is a little rough too. I have one boy who can't read or write Spanish (let alone English). He's always disrupting class and asking if he can leave and whatever else he can think of to do to curb his boredom. Not really sure what to do with him, but wringing his neck is somewhat high on the list.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Day 46 (morning)

I meant to write yesterday as it would have been half of my first 90 days, but I obviously didn't. I'm booking plane tickets back for March 9 to March 23. I'll get in LATE on the 9th, and I leave EARLY on the 23. Doing anything on either of those two days is out of the question. (Sorry, but this is mostly due to when Spirit flies in and out of Guatemala City. Nothing I can do about it.)

By the way, I thought I'd be able to write snail mail more often, but in the last 46 days, I've seriously seen a post office only once. I've seen an ATM twice.

In other news, I'm hungry. I think I might even eat frijoles for breakfast if they're my only option...

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Day 43

Today wasn't the best of days, but there have been worse ones.  For example, today I bought myself a nice "new" sweatshirt for 25 cents.  It says "Animal" on it, but the letters are very stylized, and it's warm and without holes.  I also got a torn plastic shower curtain for free (with purchase of other stuff) which I'm going to use to line the litterbox.  A holey sheet (yes, you read that right; although I suppose it is technically a blanket) for another 25 cents which I hope to give to the kittens to curl up on...once they get the litter box down pat.  And I bought a nice red and pink long-sleeve shirt for 12.5 cents.  Should be good for Valentine's day, I hope.

Speaking of Valentine's day, I am planning on extending my time here beyond the minimum 3 months.  While I do have tough days (and I'll tell you about the tough part of today in a bit), I really feel like I am helping change lives.  This is not to say that I can't change lives in the United States, but it's simply more difficult as the US has a lot more regulations and, amusingly, I'm not qualified to help people out in most places in the US.  That being said, I am planning on booking my flight in the next week or so.  I've notified Orphan's Hope to send the money for the plane ticket to my account.  I'm looking at March 9 to March 23.  (Those are Wednesdays two weeks apart for those who don't want to pull out their calendars.)  The round trip will be costing me $337.46.  This is actually 2 round trips.  If I were to book a flight from Guatemala to Detroit (which would have a stop in Ft. Lauderdale), it would cost me $446.76.  Believe me, I can find something better to blow $111.30 on.

Anyway, today wasn't so hot because I had kids who didn't want to learn English.  Now, our classes have a very regular schedule.  If their "teachers" want to change when English class is because it isn't convenient for the boys, I'm very flexible.  Currently, the Peques have English from 10-10:15 am; the Medianos, in two groups, have class from 2-2:30 and 2:30-3; and the Grandes, also in two groups, have class from 4-4:30 and 4:30-5.  The Medianos are almost always late (so I rarely have that hour gap between the two), and the Grandes, at least yesterday, tend to be timely.  Today, the first group of Medianos didn't show up until it was nearly time for the second group.  The second group of Medianos left just as the first Grandes lesson was supposed to begin.  However, NEITHER GROUP of Grandes showed up at all.  So, at 4:25, I went out and asked Gloria (the older bilingual woman who is usually here on Tuesdays) why it is important to know English in Guatemala.  Good news is that she told me nothing new.  So, I went and played computer games in the classroom until 4:50 when I started packing up.  The boys know when English class is; there is a sign in their dorm telling them when it is, and it has been at that time for a week.  I'm a little annoyed, but it is ultimately their lives and their futures, and I really can't force them to learn a skill (speaking and understanding English) which can get them better jobs here in Guatemala.

In other news, Mia and Bella--my two kittens (I have a third, but I'm looking for someone who wants a kitten)--made their debut into society today.  They did pretty good; I was proud of them.  Bella even got loose (jumped down from my shirt) and didn't run away completely.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Day 42

I know it has been a long time since I last updated. It can be blamed on a few things, but I can talk about that at the end of this entry.

Yesterday was the first Sunday in Advent. Most Latin American countries have a strongly religious community. (I won't say anything about their faith as that has an interesting range, but the religious traditions are strong.) So, since Advent is religious--the road to Christmas, so to speak--they celebrated it in grand style. In the morning, we went up to the village for church. With the Salesiano group on holiday, we are no longer spoiled with our own private services. The seminarians came by and walked us with us. (Have I mentioned that I REALLY like having that seminary near us and that I'll miss them when they go back home to Colombia on December 18?)

Church was fairly uneventful. We had the usual disruptive boys problems. I'm thinking that us adults need a separate mass so that we can actually get something out of the service. There were quite a few baptisms and a children's choir. I don't know if that stuff is normal or not since this was our first Sunday in town. (I reckon that the baptisms are not normal every Sunday.)

After church, we were supposed to go down to the seminary and play on their ball courts, but that was only until noon, and since there were not only baptisms but the priest was being long-winded, we didn't get back to the Hogar until 11:45. By the time we had gotten down to the seminary, it would have been time to trudge back up the mountain. So, the guys just helped us watch the boys at our place for a little while.

After that, we just continued things around the Hogar without them. I did some correspondence work and uploaded photos from Saturday (I'll have to talk about that too) from my camera. Since Sundays are visit days, there were some parents who wanted to see pictures of their boys, but since I sort by day, not boy, that was a little difficult. Finally, the boys just gave me a day to look at and that went fine. I had some pizza for lunch (sadly, pineapple ham pizza, my least favorite), and after lunch, I played keep-away with some of the guys. They didn't really like my play style, but I'd rather wait and watch for them to mess up then to wear myself out trying to make them mess up (and maybe not succeed). Worked just fine, if you ask me, but I guess it made the game too slow for them. (Not that I was ever in the center that much anyway. Despite never being a soccer player, I can actually kick with both sides of both feet.)

Around 4:30, a group showed up to do our advent celebration. First they played a game where the leader would say a word, and the boys would have to run to grab a baton (was actually a ching-ching, but I'll save you from weird cultural words at the moment) and run back to their group. Whatever group ended up with the baton had to sing a Christmas song with that word in it. The next activity was to put on a Christmas skit. Each group had part of the Christmas story and had to act it out. They used crepe paper to make costumes. If it had been a costume contest, I would have voted for Danilo Polanco's angel costume; he made such a formidable looking angel.

After the skits, we had a parade with a nativity up the mountain to the chapel. Each group took a turn carrying it. We did some call and response sort of thing at the door. And once it was inside, they did a few more readings and a few more songs. After that, we went down to the ball court again, and they set off some fireworks for us. I'll admit that I was a little concerned being so close to the fireworks, but with metal roofs and cement walls, I guess it isn't such a big deal. Once they were done with the big ones, they gave the boys sparklers (which they call "estrellitas" or "little stars") and set off some other flare-type fireworks on the ball court. After that, they passed out some Christmas presents to all the boys. The Peques all got a wind-up car, a wind-up airplane, a spikey ball, and a bag of candy. The Medianos and Grandes each got a backpack and a cap.

Finally, it was time for dinner where we had tamales and hot chocolate. (Obviously, I didn't have the hot chocolate, but it made me wish there was some hot cider around as it was a very cold evening.) Once most everyone was done eating, Daniel came in with his guitar and played some sing-along music. It was a fun evening. If Christmas itself is half this fun, I might just make it.


I believe I've talked about Escuelas Abiertas before (maybe about 2 weeks ago). In case I didn't, it's basically this government funded program where the schools are open on Saturdays and Sundays during their big 3-month long break. Supposedly, the boys can go for all sorts of activities, but I haven't been that impressed by what I've seen so far. (Okay, I got to meet about 7 of the Miss Guatemala contestants, but that isn't really a big deal.)

Anyway, Saturday was their big national conference, and the Hogar was invited by the Satellite school where some of our boys attend for classes. So, we went. Daniel and I shared one of our few conversations in which we were in agreement that the event was pretty pointless. You couldn't see anything since the stage was a million miles away. You couldn't hear anything since there was talking and bands playing all around. And you couldn't really do anything.

I do have to say that they had quite the security at the conference. There were four lines for entering the facility. Two lines for men and two lines for women. Each gender had a line for people with bags and coats and those without. Since I was wearing both a coat and had a bag, I went through that line. The woman who was running security for that line asked me to open up my bag so she could look inside. She only looked in one compartment and didn't even pat down my coat pockets which were hard and bulky. About an hour later, the President (of Guatemala) walked onto the stage. This is actually the second time this week that I've been within 500 feet of the President and haven't had to go through any sort of intense security check. (The first time, there was none at all.) The President didn't stand behind bullet-proof glass, and only one guy proceeded up onto the platform before him...looking mostly at the steps in front of himself. If Obama could enjoy the privileges afforded to Colom, it would do wonders in restoring any sort of belief in America.

In the afternoon, there was a playground and a few activities for the boys. So, it was a bit better. I'll still admit that I was glad to come back to the Hogar.


As for being busy, it mostly comes down to the cats and my boss. I don't have the time, interest, or patience to take care of three kittens. Even two is pushing the limit. At any rate, I only have two hands, and most of the time, those are needed for typing and doing work on my computer. I can't spend all my time dragging kittens off of my keyboard. And when I get up to go to the bathroom, I have to find ways to safeguard against random typing or the computer getting shut down. Additionally, what order I take the kittens off my lap in plays a large factor in either my success or failure as some are more prone to climbing back on (and two hands vs. three kittens is a losing battle). Additionally, I can't find a lot of the kitten supplies I need in Guatemala; so I have to be creative. Sadly, I don't have the time to be creative. One of these current issues is a litter box. I have a basket of sorts (but it has holes in the bottom and sides) which has the bottom lined in plastic with a chunk of cardboard on top of the plastic. It needs dirt, and I was told by Estuardo where I could get dirt, but unfortunately, I never have the time to go get dirt for it. So, last night was a cold night as I had only a fleece blanket to wrap myself in; the kittens peed on my sheets and quilt. (Fortunately, I noticed them doing this; so I tossed them into the pee basket and put the sheets and quilt in the shower.)

My boss is apparently not happy that I spend my mornings in my room. This is not something that she has talked to me about. It is, again, an overheard conversation. However, those are mornings that I spend preparing English lessons for the day. Apparently, she thinks I should be out "helping," but the understanding which was reached before I came here was that my jobs were not with the boys.

  1. facilitate faster communication between Carmen/Diane and the Hogar.
  2. help organize the store
  3. teach English

So, since I'm in my room working on either 1 or 3, I'm not sure what she has the right to get flustered about. If I had a key to the store, I'd work on that in the mornings, but I haven't been given one (nor have I asked for one); so I can only assume that she doesn't actually want help with that.


For posterity sake, I should note that on Thursday night/Friday morning, I ate Taco Bell for the first time in...forever? I am typically opposed to "fake Mexican food," but that I was eating it in Guatemala at 1 am with a 15-year old and a 20-year old Guatemalan was just too funny.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Mia "Mia" y Mas: Day 35

I'm now a single mother of two...kittens. Mia was part of a litter of three. The original idea had been to take Mia and leave the two gray tabbies to keep each other company. However, when we were getting Mia out the other day (and maybe even a day or two before that), I started to notice that there were only two kittens, not three. Now, I am absolutely positive that there were two gray tabbies and that I wasn't just seeing the same one twice.

However, with there now only being two kittens, I couldn't leave the other one to be lonely; so when we went to get Mia the other night, we were also going to get the other kitten. The stress and panic of the kittens was such that we couldn't find the other kitten after we had gotten Mia; so we decided we'd look another day. I left a little food in the room where they usually are and shut the door. Sunday was just too busy and hectic; so I went back today (about 40 hours after getting Mia) to look for her sibling. I opened up the door to the house--not to the room they had been in--and there was the other kitten. That means that she (I think) was probably without food and water for nearly 40 hours. (Although, drinking out of the toilets was a possibility.) I had little trouble getting the kitten in what I am assuming was a weakened state.

I got this kitten back to my room, and she was worse off than Mia was when I got her. Mia at least had some fight in her. This kitten didn't really want to eat or drink anything, but Mia was a great influence on her sister. I come in and sit down on the bed and hear Mia hiding somewhere where I don't want her to be; so I call out to her, and she comes climbing to see me. Her sister was pretty much too weak to perk up at seeing Mia, but there was a slight improvement. It was great to have Mia already used to me. I think the going mentality around the room right now is "Well, Mia eats the food; so I guess I can. Well, Mia drinks the water; so I guess I can. Well, Mia loves being touched by the human; so I guess I can try it too." I know that's sort of my mentality; I give the attention to Mia, and when her sister is ready for it and comes looking for it, I give it to her as well.

I'm toying with a few names for Mia's sister (if it is, in fact, a sister). One of them is "y hermana" ("and sister"), but that puts a lot of pressure on Mia. I have also considered "Kitten" since I am teaching English here (among other things I do); however, when she gets older/bigger, I don't want her to still be called Kitten, and I'm not keen on the name Cat. Granted, if the sibling turns out to be a brother, I think I'm okay with the name Cat; we'll see. (No, I don't need a biology lesson. They both look female, but they also look different from each other; so I'm reserving judgement.)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Mia "Mia"

So, for having survived a month, I hereby give myself a cat. The act of taking a cat is not something which I do lightly. While a cat could travel to the US with me, it's also something more...a decision to raise an animal in a home. So, Mia, welcome home. :)

By the way, she isn't as thrilled about it as I am, but I figured that might be the case. She was trying to find the best hiding spot in my room. Fortunately, most of them so far have been pretty lame. She hasn't yet found "under the bed."

Now, however, she's decided that my bed is her bed (which is sort of what I want considering how cold it is), but she's at the foot of it. She has also claimed the pair of socks I've been wearing to bed, but I guess that's fine since you're apparently supposed to give the cat something with your scent so they get used to you...

Friday, November 19, 2010

Day 32

I really love aguacate (avocado) trees on the mountain. They pretty much grow sideways and are pretty much amazing for climbing, taking naps on, and playing horse. We took a walk out to the campo (countryside) yesterday where the trees grow. I didn't take my camera with me or else I would have taken pictures of the trees for you all. Some of the boys picked avocados for the kitchen while we were there. Sadly, I can't really see them up in the leaves and green avocados; must be some sort of survival of the fittest.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


I probably shouldn't post this until it's actually in my possession, but I am getting a kitten! She is an adorable little sweetheart, and I plan to name her Mia. (Besides being a name in English, it is actually a Spanish word as well. It means "Mine.") She is an orange and white tabby. She also has two siblings who are gray tabbies; so if you know anyone in Guatemala who wants a kitten, I've got some to spare. (Or if you want to come and pick it up and take it back to the States, that's fine too. Cats can cross international borders very easily.)

We actually found Mia and her siblings about a week and a half ago. There were American doctors here at the time who approximated their age at 6 weeks. My friend Theresa advised not taking them from their mother until they were at least 8 weeks old; so we all just kept quiet about it. However, today the boys had to get some beds out of that room; so it was inevitable that they were found. As soon as the boys came out of the house yelling about "gatitos" ("kittens"), I knew I had to act fast. I mentioned to Estuardo (the husband of the woman who runs the home) that the American doctors had mentioned finding rats in the pharmacy while they were cleaning it out (and no, it wasn't a lie just to get a cat). It just so happens that the pharmacy is in the same part of the same building that I live in; so, if I had a cat (kitten) who I was caring for, that animal might feel like going hunting and decide to kill the rats (when it's a little bigger, yes, but for now perhaps the smell of cat will keep the rats at bay). Besides, I've always wanted a cat, one I could wake up to find laying on my head or, preferably, my stomach.

So, tomorrow Estuardo and I are going to go shopping for cat supplies. I have to say that I'm pretty excited about it all. getting too excited until tomorrow!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Day 29 (evening)

So, when you have 52-ish boys between the ages of 2 and 15, there's apt to be some roughhousing. Yesterday, I walked out of my room to find 8-year old Mardoqueo with a cut inside of his lip about an inch long. It was technically given to him by his own teeth; however, it happened while an 11-year old was throwing a fit. This really happens more often than I would like; so I decided to do something about it. Yesterday, I started teaching the boys wrestling.

Wrestling is a sport. It's one which I was involved with my senior year of high school. Granted, as far as my weight class went back then, I was pretty lousy. However, I've got a good 50 pounds and a foot in height on most of these boys. Wrestling, unlike the brawling they've been doing on occasion when everyone's back is turned, has rules to it. They can't grab someone by the neck and throw them to the ground. In fact, they can't even choke them. (And if you honestly have control of what you're doing and of your opponent, you can even be nice and set them gently on the ground.) There's no beating on the other person until they're humiliated, bleeding and/or crying; it's just a simple 2 shoulders on the ground for 3 seconds. Comparatively, it's quite civilized.

Granted, I'd love it if they learned to work out their differences by talking, but one step at a time. Let's learn respect first, and then let's learn the difference between competition and solving problems.

(And yes, I took on two boys at once a few times tonight, but after one was pinned, he was out of the "battle." That's seriously the last time I leave my room for a band-aid, walk out of the dining hall with two sandwiches, and end up giving wrestling lessons...needing more band-aids than I left to get in the first place.)

Day 29 (continued)

Today I was a big spender. I bought a Geoffrey Hayes leather jacket with the lovely fleecy lining, a pair of size 10 heels, a calf-length black skirt, and curtains made of 100% Indian silk for two of my windows. Now all this expensive purchasing cost me a whopping Q10.

For those of you playing along at home, that's $1.25 USD.

(Yeah, someone failed to mention that I'd actually have to get dressed up from time to time. So, I didn't bring any dressy clothes, but we have first communion on Sunday, and if I'm not dressed to the nines--or at least to the fives--I'm going to hear about it. And I thought my khakis were fine.)

Day 29

I've survived 4 whole weeks here in Guatemala. This is, I think, the longest I've ever been in Guatemala at a time, but the time has flown by. I've accomplished less than I wanted to accomplish so far, but things seem to be changing.

I've started getting materials ready for teaching formal English classes, researching some methods and drawing on my own language learning experiences (of which I have plenty). The biggest problem I anticipate is phonetics. Spanish is a very easy language to read aloud. Every consonant has just one sound (and in a rare instance, a second. The only one I can think of at the moment is "g"); every vowel has just one sound. How it all sounds is very set, very specific, and you never have to guess as to how a word sounds.
Now, English on the other hand, seems to have no rhyme or reason. I started this list when I was working on phonetics with Moises this summer, and I will try to remember it for you. Just read it aloud and enjoy.

car - bar - bare - are - air - bear - ear - tear (like crying) - tear (like ripping) - pear - pare - pair

Now, go back to the bear...bear - beer- ear

What psycho thought up our language?!? It's supposedly as difficult to learn as Chinese. The only saving grace of English is that the verbs (despite all being irregular) are easy.

Spanish - caminar                                                                English - to walk
yo camino    nosotros caminamos                                I walk        we walk
tu caminas    vosotros caminais                                   you walk    y'all walk
el camina    ellos caminan                                            he walks    they walk
There's just one little change in the English!
Granted, sometimes there are two which is lovely and confusing:

Spanish - estar                                                                     English - to be
yo estoy    nosotros estamos                                           I am       we are
tu estas    vosotros estais                                                 you are    y'all are
el esta    ellos estan                                                         he is      they are
So, yes, I expect my biggest problems to be with phonetics.

Anyway, off to go be a productive member of our society!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Day 27

Today, Christian Josue and I talked to an old man who informed us that the administration of Alvaro Colom is one of socialism. He went on to note that while it is a socialist government, it is not a communist one. Furthermore, he stated that it was the first socialist government which was not communist in the history of the world.

Sorry, America, you're just not socialist enough to compete. Try a few more health care reforms.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Day 26

Mostly I'm posting to let you all know that I'm okay. I think I'll chalk the whole week up to being rough; although, there have been some nice spots.

On Thursday, Karen (my "boss"), Estuardo (her husband), and Maria Andrea (their daughter) came back from their vacation in the US. The rest of that day was just a mess. Anyone who could find a way to avoid Karen did. She spent the afternoon walking around the hogar saying how things were done wrong and how she couldn't trust anyone to do anything right while she was away; then she would continue by saying how much she had to get done. I took a lot of the brunt of this and it really hurt. The biggest problem, as I see it, is that she didn't give clear directions to everyone who needed to be involved in what she wanted done.

Yesterday, Friday, we took the kids (and a good chunk of village kids) to IRTRA. It is a Guatemalan amusement park; however, that's only about half of it. The other half is a zoo (and I'm not talking about the kids!). I saw a jaguar, lion, and puma yesterday! (No tigers.) A good deal of it is actually birds. Jean (one of the American volunteers) and I asked one of the boys if there were Quetzals (the national bird) in the zoo. He told us there were, but we never saw any and forgot to ask him about them again later. I actually rode a few rides as well. (The coasters weren't as big and crazy as those in the States, but it's still odd to think of getting me on a coaster.) My biggest problem is that they don't allow glasses or hats on the rides. On one of them, I had put my hat on my belt loop, and they made me stick my glasses in my pocket; however, on another they actually made me pass my glasses off to someone else. (Fortunately, when you go to the park with over 100 kids, there's usually SOMEONE in line that you know!)
After lunch, I spent my time with David (the 22-month old...who I should probably post a picture of sometime for you all; it's not like I don't have plenty!). We walked around for quite a while, and then people started asking us (me) to hold stuff for them while they were on certain rides. The only trick to this was that they had to find us because David was busy exploring the world. I carried Daniel's backpack and hat the rest of the day. I finally got tired of walking around with David; so I suggested a ride. We went on the ferris wheel (only 8 seats on it). He wasn't a big fan of it and started fussing; so I put him on my lap. After about once around, he just fell asleep. After that, I took him on the train because he's just a touch heavy to want to stand around with. Then I went and got an ice cream and sat on a bench and ate it. Finally, I decided to start walking toward the entrance, but I found Alba (our cook) with her daughter Migdalia; so we sat with them for a while while Migdalia ate her ice cream (and shared it with David). When Migdalia finished, she went and rode an airplane ride 3 times in a row, and afterward we started heading toward the entrance as a group. We did stop and do one more ride on the way out. It was these little semi-trucks which went around a track (it was a ride, but the kids had ineffective steering wheels and effective horns). Migdalia and David rode it together. Last stop was the bathroom before our 2 hour ride home in traffic. (We left the park around 4 pm and got back to the hogar around 6...definitely rush hour traffic through the capital.)
I was tired and didn't feel like standing up for the trip home; so I got Kevin (one of the medianos) to give me his seat if I let him sit on my lap. It was a deal, and I slept for the first hour of the ride. Kevin and I played "I spy" for the second half.

Other good things which have happened are the possibility of me getting a kitten. There is a feral mother and her three kittens near here, and they're pretty much adorable. The home gets "useless" stuff like donations of cat food; so, I don't expect a huge cost in supplies. I still need to talk it over with Karen, but I have a few things around here that I'm doing to make things more efficient (i.e. put her in a good mood) and there are a few sanitary concerns which came to attention during the gringos visit which a cat could help with; so, I'm hoping to find my kitten a job here. She's an orange tabby, and I'm still looking for a name for her before I bring her home. (She's also only 7 weeks old; so I'm waiting another week at least before even thinking about moving her here.) Anyone have any name suggestions for a female Guatemalan orange tabby?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

oh wow...what a day

I wouldn't be posting about today if I didn't feel I had supporters out there reading. As Daniel and I closed the gates today, he asked me how my day was, and I replied "loco" ("crazy"). He admitted he was tired as well.

Today we had a woman (gringa) break her arm around lunchtime. Now, it is bad enough that Karen and Estuardo aren't here to deal with the emergency, but the only support staff around (besides me who feels slightly culturally inept still) were Naneth (the psychologist) and Juana (one of the teachers). Daniel was out driving Jennifer around. So, not only were we a little out of our league, the mission leader wasn't even around. Jennifer has a phone, but no one knew what the number was. So, we asked Naneth for Daniel's number to get a hold of Jennifer. (The only non-stressful thing about all of this was that we had at least 2 doctors (maybe 3), about 3 nurses, a wheelchair, and plenty of thoughtful and attentive people.) Anyway, Daniel and Jennifer came back and took the woman to the hospital where she was diagnosed with a compound fracture to her left arm. She needs to get surgery tomorrow.
So, the group had to change some flight plans and figure out who was going back with the woman. Additionally, the bus which was supposed to pick them up at 6 wasn't showing up. To make matters worse, Jennifer's phones (she has two) were receiving calls but not sending them. It kept saying that she was dialing the wrong number. So, not only could she not make calls, but she couldn't check her e-mail either. So, I pulled out the laptop and my phone and handed them over. It was quite the evening with phones ringing while she talked to someone or another with mine and the internet being as indecisive as usual. A bus finally did come to pick them up around 7:45 pm.

So, in all the craziness of today, I got a flu vaccine (which I had planned to get before leaving the States but got that horrible cold on Sunday evening), took some pictures, and hopefully found a kitten I can adopt (to keep the bugs down in my room and also because I've always wanted a cat). (I need to run that by Karen first, but I think I'm ready for it.)

Monday, November 8, 2010

Day 21 (morning)

How to take a shower

  1. Sit in your cold room for about an hour replying to e-mails and facebook posts (so the water doesn't seem so cold)
  2. Get undressed, put on your shower shoes, and wrap yourself in your towel (you'll want it later)
  3. Leave your room and go to the shower room (the best place to take a shower)
  4. Hang your towel on the hook furthest from the shower head (so it doesn't get too wet)
  5. Turn the water on strong enough so that the water is diverted to the secondary (mobile) showerhead (so you can direct the water where you want it.
  6. Turn down the water (so that there is not enough water running through that the overhead still runs)
  7. Get your hand ready to rub anything that you plan to wash (the friction of the hand will keep it from being quite so cold)
  8. Shower (getting only what you want to clean wet)
  9. Turn off shower (water is a big expense)
  10. Wrap your towel around you and get out of there.
  11. Scurry back to your room and crawl under your fleece blankets for about 15 minutes (to defrost)
  12. Get dressed.

Things to not do while taking a shower:

  • Wash your hair if it doesn't need it. (If it does, bend over so that the water does not run down your face, neck, back, etc.)
  • Shave (unless the act of shaving will allow you to wait longer until your next shower)
  • Brush your teeth (the water isn't safe for that)
  • Stand close while trying to figure out the system.

Please note that these directions apply to normal living in Guatemala and should not necessarily be used when considering all accommodations in Guatemala.

Friday, November 5, 2010

brr...! Here in Guatemala (at least where I'm at), the temperature during the day keeps between a comfortable 60 to 80 degrees; however at night, it can dip down into the 50s and maybe lower, although the boys aren't acquainted with snow.

Here in Guatemala, while they have glass windows in many places, the windows are not typically sealed/caulked/whatever allowing cockroaches, spiders, and the cold to come in around the edge. (A rough hole size is cut out of the cement blocks--at least it's cement here at the Hogar--with a saw or a machete, and the window is placed into that space and screwed to stay.)

So, here in Guatemala, I tend to be cold at night. Tonight I'm trying out a new sleeping configuration using BOTH of the fleece blankets I brought. That said, I will wish you all sweet dreams as I bury myself (and my frozen fingers and toes) under a sheet, two fleece blankets (admittedly, one is wrapped around only my feet), a quilt, and a Mayan blanket.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Day 17

Hi, Mom! Hi, Jani! I know you're out there reading this. The two of them actually wrote to me to see if I was okay, and I am...just pretty busy.

On November 1, I moved into my new room. That night, I froze.
On November 2, I didn't freeze, but I deadbolted my door at night because the main door was open much of the day and I'm usually paranoid. The next morning, I couldn't get out of my room.
On November 3, I kept hearing crazy noises in my room which kept me awake until about 1 am.

The gringos have taken over the Hogar. This has given some good changes and some not-so-amazing changes.
Good change: the boys have something to do during the day.
Bad change: a lot of the keys seem to have vanished and I can't access everything I need to.
Good change: less frijoles for meals.
Bad change: the gringos don't know to ring the bell for meals; so I've still eaten about as many meals as I did when we ate frijoles.
Good change: more people to speak English to.
Bad (?) change: more people expect me to translate all the time.

When I was here at the home for two weeks last summer, Christina and I decided that we didn't like groups coming here. "The Americans" became something that meant "people who come in and disrupt the normal workings of the home." There's one person in this group who is trying my patience. I'm sure she's a wonderful woman who has had many children and grandchildren and knows all about raising them, but the fact of the matter is that she doesn't know these boys. She wants little David--the beautiful 22-month old baby who I'm a touch possessive about--to walk places on his own (never be carried), to be awake during the day (never nap), to sit at the table and eat with a spoon all by himself (never be fed or held while he eats), and to use the toilet like the older boys (never wear a diaper). And, you know, I guess I wouldn't have a big problem with this if it were the United States and she was his primary caregiver. However, down here, that job (honor?) has pretty much fallen to me, mostly by my own choice. My parents say that when I was a baby, I always wanted to be held; so I don't mind indulging him in carrying him around. However, we have started cracking down on who holds him; we no longer let him just change arms whenever he wants. He is still a baby; so as long as he has a set nap time (which he does, more or less), I think a nap is just fine for him. (This woman exhausted David so much that he took a nap on the "driveway!") The eating thing is something we have been working on, but when he is tired, he wants to eat with his hands. Also, this 22-month old is using the same table to eat at as the 12-year old boys. The top of the table is just too high to be convenient for him which is why I often let him sit on my lap while eating...sort of as a booster seat. The diaper thing is understandable, though. And Karen wants people to start working on that with him as well; so I don't mind that at all. You just have to keep a close eye on him as there are no training seats! So, my patience is tried. It is anyway. Karen calls him a bad child (just a touch spoiled, really, and she doesn't help), and this woman treats him like he should be 10. There's a happy medium that neither of them is hitting and it's really, really frustrating.

Anyway, I spend my days translating, taking pictures, dealing with crowd control, and corresponding with Diane (of Orphan's Hope) and Carmen (of Celebrate Children International). And I have been busy. Not only have I not updated this journal, but I haven't downloaded photos from my camera or sent pictures out to Carmen either. (Diane pulls them off of Facebook where I sometimes post.)

And how I got out of my room the other morning? Around 6:30 am, Raul--one of the teachers here--went down to unlock the gate. I called out my window to him and told him my problem. Then I asked if he would try opening it from the outside. Sadly, what I had tried to accomplish for an hour, he managed in less than a minute. I know I wasn't a stupid gringa, but it was mildly embarrassing.

Okay...time for my post-lunch nap. Hasta luego. ("Until later.")

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Day 13

The headache had mostly passed by the time I posted my last entry. I could hardly use a computer the night of the 29th because I was so light sensitive. Sundays are always fun around here. I think I told you last week that we have some seminarians who come up the hill with the priest at the seminary and conduct our Sunday service. Additionally, there are some other guys from the Don Bosco school who come and spend the day as well. I have to say, it's sort of nice having some people my age around, but there is also that awkwardness that has plagued us since first grade when the girls had to use one bathroom and the boys had to use the other since the group that comes is all guys. I'm never entirely sure if they're hitting on me or if they're just curious about the United States...or if they just think I look really lonely and need a friend. Admittedly, I don't spend a lot of time hanging out with the guys since I'm somewhat naturally shy; so maybe I do look lonely. But in all honesty, I am quite content.

When I was here last year, I got an invitation from one of the guys in the group--who I consider to be a friend--to visit him in El Salvador. I had actually planned to do this about a year from now to clear my passport; however, El Salvador won't clear my passport. Today, another one of the guys suggested I go with him to Nicaragua with him in December. I really don't NEED to clear it then, but the catch is that Nicaragua wouldn't clear it either.
"Guatemala is party to the Central America Border Control Agreement (CA-4). Under the terms of this agreement, tourists may travel within any of the CA-4 countries (Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala) for a period of up to 90 days, without completing entry and exit formalities at border immigration checkpoints. This period begins at the first point of entry in to any of the CA-4 countries."
Simply put, I need a map. No, in all seriousness, I still have Mexico to the north and Belize to the northeast. However, the guidebook I was looking at said 90 and 90. But the website I just found (to check exactly which the CA-4 countries were) says 90 and 30. So, I wrote a note to INGUAT (or am in the process as I'm trying to write it in both English and Spanish) to ask them what exactly I needed to extend my visa and how long the extension is for. If it is 90 and 30, that's a lot of hassle at INGUAT for just 30 more days. Sadly, this is one of those things I thought I had all figured out before I left the United States. Someone asked me last Sunday why I don't just get Guatemalan citizenship, and the fact of the matter is that if I got Guatemalan citizenship, I believe I would lose my American citizenship and it's just a lot harder for a Guatemalan to get into the US than it is for an American to get into Guatemala.
At any rate, what I really need is for the Argentinian or the Brazilian to ask me to visit them. Believe me, there is nothing romantic about this (or if there is, I know nothing about it). My friend in El Salvador even has a girlfriend. However, I just feel safer either traveling with or traveling to visit someone I know, and "with" is preferable to "to." I have a friend in Mexico who I could go to visit, but it's that first trip out of the country by land which is the scariest. (And yes, she expects me to come visit her sometime.) mind is wandering. I seriously started this post at 7 pm and it is now 8:30. Today after church, I made a deal with Otoniel (the Nicaraguan) that if he gives me the lyrics for the songs we are singing the next Sunday, I will sing at church. But I have a hard time hearing, translating, processing, translating back, and the same speed as everyone else. I'm sure that in time, I won't need to do the translation thing, that the words in Spanish will have a meaning much as my English words have a meaning which doesn't really need defining or explaining to myself. "A cat? What's a cat? It's that furry thing...well, usually furry, at least. Some cats aren't furry. That usually furry thing that meows and naturally uses its claws to hold onto things better." That. I don't usually go through all that when I'm processing English. It's just there in my head. I can recognize a cat as a cat. Right now, I recognize a gato as a cat. (Yes, "gato" is the word for "cat" in Spanish.) Once I can recognize a gato as a gato (and an arbol as an arbol, and a camioneta as a camioneta), I won't have the trouble I do right now. Currently, I do have a few words which I don't ever need to define to myself, but those are words which, in context, don't have much of an American equivalent. For example, "hogar" and "frijoles." Now, quite literally, those two words mean "home" and "black beans" in English; however, the context in which they are commonly used here in Guatemala just don't have much of an American equivalent. That's one reason why it is difficult to tell people in the USA what Hogar Miguel Magone is...and why people often call it an "orphanage" (which it is not, really). And I suppose people eat frijoles in the United States; in fact, I'm sure they do in plenty of places, but the reason why I don't need to translate that word is because I DON'T LIKE BLACK BEANS! I really hate the texture of beans (except green beans); so frijoles don't have an American context for me. Similarly, guisquil is a vegetable which isn't found in Michigan where I am from. They have it in parts of California, and in Mexico, it is called chayote, but for me, guisquil is an image in my mind that I don't need to define to myself.
I think that might be part of the problem with how we learn language in the US. So much of it is "this word in this language is this word in this other language." By relating one word to another and that second word to an image, we slow down the processing. I do have a Spanish-English dictionary here, but I don't use it very often (only when writing e-mail to INGUAT). I also have a bilingual Bible which I read only in Spanish unless I come across an entire verse that I don't understand a single word of. I think I told you of Deivi and David, the littlest boys who are still learning basic Spanish. I'm also teaching them English, but because they don't know either "nose" or "nariz," the two words I am teaching them are for that thing in the middle of their face that all the boogers come out of which are good for mid-day snacks! It would be like if I used "dollars," "bucks," or "bills" in the United States...they all just mean the same thing.
The difficult part with the little ones will be sorting out their words into the proper languages when they are older, but by then I should be fluent enough (hopefully) to only use one language at a time with them. With the older boys, I often speak in "Spanglish" a fair amount of the time. This works well for them because they have a fairly secure Spanish vocabulary and, additionally, they know the difference between a Spanish word and an English word (they sound different!); so when I throw an American word into a fairly Spanish sentence, they figure out the word from context. Whether they have to translate the word to Spanish or not, I don't know, but I'm just not sure how else to teach them unless we're sitting down in a classroom setting where I can minimize any and all contact with Spanish.

I guess that brings me back to today. We had a group of gringos come in from Pennsylvania today. (Yes, they made it just fine to those who are reading from their church and community!) They're going to be taking over the hogar for two weeks while the teachers and other staff go on vacation. As I put it to them earlier, they're going to cook my food and wash my clothes. :) For the most part, I say this in jest, but since I eat with the boys and they'll be cooking for the boys, they will cook for me as well...just another mouth to feed. Anyway, I hope to help them out as much as possible whether it is just with names, unlocking doors, or taking pictures.

I'm really not paying attention to this post. I'm distracted by the sunburn I got today while playing "football" (soccer, for you Americans) and what I should get done before moving to my new room TOMORROW! Yes, that's right. I get my new room tomorrow. Sadly, I get it because Karen wants to appropriate the beds in the volunteer room and not because it was promised to me, but I guess I won't split hairs about it.

At times, the Spanish comes easily to me, but that's just when I'm going to say something, not when I have to understand something and spit something back out.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Day 12

Hi. It's been a rough couple of days. Yesterday, I went to Satalite in the morning to attend the 6th grade graduation of 2 of our boys and two other associated children. For four hours, I stood in the sun and took pictures and cheered them on. Afterward, we rode a bus back to the T in the road that heads back up to our village which we walked a half a mile up the side of a mountain to reach. Between the asthma and the dehydration, I spent the entire afternoon in my room, in the dark, with a severe headache and nausea. I still have a bit of a headache, but at least the nausea went away overnight. Anyway, I just wanted to update and let you all know that I'm still here, and I hope to get moved into my new room today. :)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Day 9

First thing is first. Some of you have been concerned with the storm in the gulf. Until people started asking me about it and if it was affecting us, I didn't know it existed! So, no, it hasn't been a problem here in the mountains about as far from either coast as I could get. (But thanks for asking!) The few sprinkles of rain we got this afternoon might be attributed to it, but I literally mean sprinkles. We hauled the clothes off of the clothesline, but I didn't bother with my rain coat or umbrella and the spots on my t-shirt dried within a minute of coming inside.

Today was FULL of stuff today. I started the day with more kindergarten graduations. Today, Migdalia (the daughter of our cook, Alba) and Oswaldo graduated from kindergarten. So, I went and took pictures there. When I got back, I downloaded the pictures from my camera and uploaded some onto Facebook. Shortly after we got back, there was a snack of cake to celebrate all of our graduates. I took some time to call my cousin, Mihai, in New Zealand. Then I took care of Deivi and David, our two youngest. I took care of David until he fell asleep, and then I took care of Deivi until it was time for lunch. When lunch was over, I came back to my room, and found David awake in his bed; so I took him to the dining hall and fed him.

The afternoon was busy too. Estuardo brought me back Christina's phone. The problem was that the phone hadn't been used in 10 months and the SIM chip had gone bad. So, Q50 (about $6.25) later, the phone works and has a new phone number. Anyone who feels like they need the number, feel free to ask me for it. I called my mother and gave her the new number. After that, I went out with the Peques and watched them play soccer (European football, but since most of my readers are American, I'll use the American name) until the sprinkles started. I herded the boys out of the ball court and down toward their house. Then I ran up to help with the clothesline. We have a sneaking suspicion that it is the longest clothesline in the world, but we're pretty positive that it is the longest in Guatemala. Fortunately, most of the clothes had already dried, I moved the rope, and a couple of the medianos ripped clothes and clothespins off the line as fast as they could. Then we took the big pile of clothes and shoved it under a roof.

On my way down to the Peques house, Don Lorenzo's son, Willy, saw me and asked how I was doing. I inquired after his health and that of his baby, and he asked how long I had been here and how long I would be staying. He is someone who I would usually avoid associating with (for reasons I won't go into), but he's a friendly face; so the conversation was welcome. And I guess that's a good thing since I'll be seeing plenty more of him. (Thanks, Sarah, for reminding me on Facebook what his name was!)

Later that afternoon, myself and 4 of the boys cleaned out all of the boxes from the little green house near the gate where they hope to move the office to. Karen was pretty much shocked that we cleaned it all out so quickly. And I was actually surprised when I looked outside the house just how many boxes there were out there; I had just been passing the boxes to the boys who placed them wherever they could find a dry spot. Erick Flores joined us late, but he worked like a horse! A lot of the other boys were complaining about the heavy boxes so much that I started pretending the heavy boxes were light and the light boxes were heavy. (Because I was pulling a switch on them, I always made sure they had a good hold on the boxes before I let go.) Anyway, we sorted out some of the boxes, but we couldn't finish before it got dark; so some of the boxes went back into the little green house until tomorrow.

I gobbled down dinner and hurried back to the Peques dorm to give Deivi his medicine. He has some sort of infection or something. Because the "teachers" are 24 hours on/24 hours off (with one of them staying the whole weekend), it is easier to have me give them the medicine as I'm a constant. And here I am.

Moving into my new room: tomorrow?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Day 8

This morning I attended the kindergarten graduation of 3 of our boys. They looked absolutely adorable in their little "togas" (which we would call gowns; they looked a lot like choir robes to me, though) and caps. It is apparently common at a kindergarten graduation for parents to give their son or daughter a solid gold ring. I'm not quite sure of the significance of this. (We didn't give any to our boys. We just don't have the sort of staffing to protect personal valuables of that magnitude around here.) At any rate, most of these children received their ring from their mothers. In theory, this is because their fathers went off to work for the day to make money to pay for that gold ring, but at least two of the children had their father come up and put the ring on their finger; this nearly made me cry. I mean, I suppose it is possible that the father is unemployed, but part of me thinks that those dads realized how important it was that they be there that day. (Additionally, if the father was unemployed, I'm not positive that the family would have shelled out the money for that gold ring. We were not the only "family" to not give a ring to our "children.") At the graduation, I also heard the Guatemalan national anthem for the first time. The whole morning--except for the part where I didn't get breakfast because I had to take the boys to their graduation mass--was absolutely beautiful. It made me wonder if I had had such a ridiculous and pointless ceremony when I finished kindergarten. (I hardly remember my high school and college graduations, and I only remember that I had an 8th grade farewell, no details besides what dress I wore. So, remembering kindergarten is not high on my list of abilities.)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Day 7

The language "barrier" can often be used in my favor. Today, I walked into La Bodegona (what I call "the everything store") in Antigua wearing my backpack. Now, I often have a messenger bag which I take in there, pretend is my purse, and never hear a word about, but I didn't bring it on this trip just because it wasn't the most effective use of the allowed space on the plane (and I didn't have room to cram it in any of my bags). So, yes, I nonchalantly wander past this sign which literally says (in Spanish) "NO BACKPACKS! [and some other things which weren't important for me to take note of]" because I really didn't want to carry on me everything of value in that backpack...nor did I want the backpack to mysteriously vanish while I was in the store. However, for me there is a real language barrier of sorts which bit me in the behind three times today (and really had/has me seriously considering the 3 months instead of 6+).

It all started first thing this morning. I woke up and decided to tackle some e-mails before breakfast. Breakfast is generally at 8; so I was up at 7 typing away on the computer. The only window in this room I am currently in points due east; so, despite being heavily covered, there is a good amount of light in the room at that hour. I had no reason to turn on additional lights. 8 am rolls around and then 8:15, and I'm not hearing any sounds of breakfast preparation. So, around 8:30, I wander out to see what is going on. As I leave the room, the teacher of the Peques notices me and says (in Spanish) "You got up?" and I'm thinking, "Obviously, I got up, lady. I'm not still laying down sleeping. I'm even dressed for the day," but later as I'm going about my business, I start hearing murmurs about the lazy gringa who sleeps in very late in the morning. Apparently, the teacher had meant "Did you just wake up?" and my "Si" ("Yes") started a bunch of lovely rumors.

The second event happened later. Daniel and I went into Antigua. We needed to drop of the four remaining folks from the Melia Family Foundation group at the Candelaria. Then, I needed to do some shopping and go to the post office and bank while Daniel talked to the people at the University. He knew what he would have to do would take about an hour, and I wasn't sure how long my errands would take, but I didn't figure they would take more than an hour. I showed him the phone number inside the back of the volunteer phone (more about Christina's phone in a second), and he programmed it into his phone. I told him to give me a call when he was ready, and I'd let him know where I was at. So, I ran my errands (including the earlier mentioned shopping trip) and wandered to the central park to wait for Daniel since I hadn't yet heard from him. (He had told me the university was near the center of Antigua.) Well, it seems that that phone has been reprogrammed, and the number printed in the back is no longer the correct number for the phone; so, when Daniel tried to call me to meet up, he couldn't reach me. After waiting for him for an hour past when I expected to hear from him, I flipped through the directory of the volunteer phone and found an entry which read "Daniel." I sent a text message letting him know I was in the central park whenever he was ready. An hour after that, I got a phone call from Estuardo asking me where I was, that Daniel was looking for me. And when we finally got back to the Hogar, all I heard was "Daniel was looking for you for two hours. He was about to just leave you there and come back. He couldn't reach you and had no money for food; so he was hungry." Well, seriously, don't you think I was hungry too? I had asked Daniel before he dropped me off if we would be eating lunch in Antigua, and he said yes. In fact, I had been planning on buying him lunch to thank him for painting something on the walls of my new room (which he hasn't yet done but said he would do); so I had been waiting all that time to eat! Regardless, I felt treated like an errant child when it was a simple problem of neither of us having the correct number for the other (and me not thinking to ask him for his number as well in case I needed to reach him).

The third event happened shortly after we got back. I had been loaned a key to the carpentry shop a few days ago so I could get paint to paint my bathroom. Instead of just loaning me his whole set of keys so I could run to open the shop and bring the keys back, I was given a single key on a rope, and Raul told me something about Ana Maria. At the time, I thought he told me that the key was hers and that I was to give it back to her when I was done. Considering how he usually let me borrow his whole set of keys, this change in behavior made sense if the key belonged to someone else. So, today when he asked me where it was, I said that I had given it to Ana Maria. This set a bit of a buzz (especially since Ana Maria would not be back until the next day at least), but I was about at my wits end of being blamed for things by then; so I just went to my room and got Estuardo the TIGO stick so he could check the Hogar's e-mail, and then Karen set me to work on some task she couldn't have the boys do since it dealt with expired single-use injection needles.

Anyway, I quietly cried most of the way through the needle task, and Christian Josue (Colocho) asked me what was wrong. I told him I was having a bad day because of mis-communications. So, he has taken it upon himself to teach me Spanish. He is starting ridiculously easy, with teaching me letters and sounds (which I actually seem to know better than he does). I really need to tell him that that just isn't going to help. What I need to work on is listening to and understanding directions...and being able to ask questions when I am not sure I understand.


Some directions I did understand were given to me tonight. (Although, they were partly in English; so perhaps that is cheating.) Tomorrow morning, I am supposed to go to the school to take pictures of some of the boys as they graduate from first grade. Julio, Christian, and Gabriel(?) will all dress up in caps and gowns. It is too early in the morning for Karen to get here in time to take pictures, and cameras are a little scarce. Pre-graduation mass is at 7 am; I had best set an alarm!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Day 6

So, today was my first mass back, and I got to stand up with the Melia Family Foundation folks and introduce myself to everyone (as if they didn't know by now). "Hola. Me llamo Annalisa. Soy de Michigan en los Estados Unidos. Tengo 25 anos. Voy a estar aqui cada semana." (*hint hint nudge nudge* "I'm not standing up and introducing myself next Sunday too.") It was also Colocho's (Christian Josue's) 15th birthday today.

After church, we piled into one bus and two micro-buses (think "full-sized van") and drove clear across Guatemala City to take the boys (and some local girls) to a scout camp. On the way, I talked to Mike Melia about their trip to Antigua tomorrow. He wasn't sure where they were going to stay for the night; so I suggested the Candelaria.

When we got to the camp, we split up among the two activities: the challenge course and the swimming pool. (My swimsuit is something I will need to have sent to me, I think.) I went with the medianos since they seem to like me just fine, and they and the grandes set off to the challenge course while the girls and the peques went swimming.

Note about the home: They divide the boys into three groups for sleeping, eating, and just about everything else. These groups are by age. I am not entirely sure where the ages fall at this point, but I think ages 2-7 are the "Peques" (short for "pequenos"--with a tilde over that n--which means "little ones"), ages 8-12 are the "Medianos" or "the middle-age kids", and 13 to 16 are the "Grandes" or "big kids." I may have some of those ages off by a little bit, but at least now you will understand a bit more of my lingo.

I wandered along the challenge course trail and partook of a few of the challenges myself. (I completed three as they were supposed to be done, and I jokingly did 3 or 4 others, climbing between slats instead of over the top or some other ridiculous variation.) I am not sure how far through we were, but we had a boy who just wouldn't come down off of one of the challenges. After the fact, we were pretty sure he just wanted attention, but at the same time, we couldn't just leave him there without supervision. So, it ended up being 3 of the university students and myself waiting for this boy for a half an hour to come down from this tree. And don't think we didn't go up and try to help him down either. Our patience was wearing thin, and I actually started singing the Zaqueo song (a song about the Biblical man Zaccheus who climbed up into a tree to see Jesus pass by). Anyway, we were eventually the last ones on the trail, and before long we got lost (obviously after getting the boy down). So, we just started following a road around until we got to the swimming pool, and from there we went up and got our lunch.

After lunch, we headed down to the swimming pool where I was constantly bugged to go swimming. They didn't care that I didn't have my swimsuit or even a dry change of clothes there. However, I finally noticed on the rule board that you need to have a swimsuit to go swimming. While the university guys could argue that they didn't care about my protests, they really couldn't argue about the pool rules. So, I mostly just sat around and took pictures of the kids, timed them as they swam across the pool, and was a generally pleasant audience.

When we got back, I finally started downloading stuff off of my camera. I have 4 memory chips for it, but unsurprisingly, I left the other 3 at home. Not really something I "forgot" as I didn't even have it on my list or in my mind. So, I needed to clear space on this one. And while I was at it, I posted some pictures on Facebook. In time, I'll look into cross-posting them here, but I have to say that I'm a little drained after today. I'm off to brush my teeth and find something warm to wear to bed.

Tomorrow, Daniel (one of the teachers at the home) and I are going to drive the rest of the Melia Family Foundation group into Antigua. He needs to stop in at the university there, and I want to shop at La Bodegona (I think I have the name right). I want to pick up a few general housekeeping things such as my own set of silverware (if you're late to dinner, you may get to try to eat your meat with a plastic spoon!) and a set of nail clippers (which was on my packing list...oops) and, of course, a couple cans of limon Pringles. (Sure, they MAKE them in the States, but they refuse to distribute them there. So, I have to come all the way here to buy American yumminess.)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Day 3 drawing to a close

I am transferring some of the posts from my old blog to this blog. If you get e-mail blog updates, realize that you might be getting a lot of e-mails in the next few days about REALLY old things. They should be pretty obvious.

I hope none of you were starting to get too worried about me! We have just had a little trouble with computer, the internet, and power the last couple days...none at once, but enough of each that has made internet time impossible. Since I have gone so long without an update, I am just going to lump a lot in here. We will start dividing things up once I have internet on the laptop that I get to use.

So, my flight on Tuesday was pretty uneventful. My plane out of Detroit Metro was delayed by a little bit because our plane was not yet there. It was coming in from somewhere in California. And while my personal item fit under the seat once we got our plane, it was a pain trying to wrestle it to the floor between my seat and the back of the seat ahead of me. I learned quickly, though, because Spirit charges for carry-ons and therefore, they let people with carry-ons board first. This meant that once those of us with carry-ons had stowed them up above, the remaining space above was available to anyone who wanted it, and I was just as entitled to it as they were. So, I stowed both my carry-on and personal least on the second flight. I was given a window seat which I usually do not like just because I usually have something under the seat in front of me and can not stretch my legs. However, on the second flight, it was not bad at all since they were both above. I took lots of pictures of clouds from above and, I think, I have a couple pictures of Mexico as well. I had hoped to snap a few of Cuba, but I was on the wrong side of the plane...if we even flew anywhere near it.

I had the easiest time ever going through border patrol. They did not even LOOK at my customs form. I could have declared and carried in weapons of mass destruction for as much of a glance as they gave that form. I am not complaining, but I was expecting trouble. (And, no, the biggest weapon I brought into their country was my common cold.) Once I got outside, I was left waiting to be picked up. Unfortunately, I did not really expect it to happen the way it did. I had a guy come up and ask me for my number. (Un?)Fortunately, I did not understand at first that he wanted MY number. I thought he was being nice and offering to help me call the people who I was waiting for. Since I had left that at home (Go me!), I told him 'No sè' (I don´t know). But when I thought about it later, yes, he was trying to get my telephone number. I do not know that either, but I could have pulled out Christina´s phone and showed him the number, I suppose. Anyway, Estuardo and four of the middle-age boys (ages 8 to 12, I think) showed up before too long and rescued me. This would be more of a blow to the guy in the US than in Guatemala, but a guy coming up to the girl who you just asked for her number, kissing her on the cheek and then having four young boys each eagerly give her a hug would put a damper on one´s day, I suppose. (Here in Guatemala, it is common to greet women you know--or for a woman to greet a man she knows--with a kiss on the cheek. It is also completely acceptable for two women who are strangers meeting each other for the first time to exchange kisses on the cheek as well.) Anyway, we went back to the Hogar, and I slept for about 4 hours. I woke up for dinner, took a shower, and then went back to sleep for a 9-hour night.

I actually did not take any pictures on Wednesday, and I do not entirely recall what happened that day. (This is a big reason why I journal.) I do know that we took four of the boys out to run errands. We had to pick up our lunch from some woman who works with the American embassy here. She and her children all look Guatemalan, but she--and the boys who I did not realize spoke English until we were leaving--all speak the most wonderful, unaccented English I have ever heard down here. I will be seeing her at least once a month, and I am secretly looking forward to it. Afterward, we had to get something paid for or something which I did not quite understand, but Estuardo´s daughter and I were left to watch the four boys. Then he bought us all ice cream at a little McDonalds stand. After all of that, we hurried home since it was nearing 2 pm, and no one else had eaten anything yet. (At least we had our ice cream!) In the afternoon, we worked on cleaning the store on the compound, but no one was really following anyone else´s clear direction of the best way to do anything. As a result, I finally decided to leave bashing my head on the wall for someone who at least could fluently speak Spanish. I applied some more Vapo-rub and laid down for a bit as I was still feeling pretty sick. When I went back out later, things were much better and, surprisingly, the boys were following the system I had set up. It made me feel a little better about the odds of this all working out.

As for today, it was a busy day with a lot of work. They are working hard to clean out my living space. My room is completely cleaned out. In fact, Christian Josue (a.k.a. Colocho) and I started painting today. My shower is completely cleaned out. My toilet area is completely cleaned out. So, now we are just working on a path to my room. We also have some other stuff in other areas to clean up and out, but that will all come in time. A large part of my morning dealt with putting toothpaste, toothbrushes, and dental floss in a large plastic tub to store until the boys need a re-stock of it. Granted, I had to sort it all within this tub by type. It was a 10-gallon tub and it is full. If you feel called to come on a trip sometime and bring donations, bring toothpaste, not toothbrushes. (I can not say that I have ever seen any of them floss, but they brush 3 to 4 times per day and most of them do not yet have their adult it is not the end of the world, I guess.)
I actually would have updated sooner, but the power was out here today for about 8 hours.
After that, I helped sort a new batch of donations which came in sometime this week. I guess I was somewhat useful since I can read the English labels much faster than anyone else and just tell people what the item is rather than have them find someone who can figure it out word for word and then try to figure out what exactly it is supposed to be and not just what it says. (This goes back to my mother and I. If she wants to say something, she will make sure she has every word and all of the grammar perfectly translated. If I want to say something, I just make sure I get the point accross. Today, one of the items was something to deal with the pain of diaper rash. I told them it was cream for pain of the diapers...they figured it out from there.)

By the way, that is the word I learned yesterday: diaper. I had one of the youngest boys sitting on my lap and I noticed that one of the legs of his pants was wet. My nose was still too clogged to really be of help, but it looked suspicious. So, I took him to the teacher and told her 'I think he needed to use the bathroom.' She told me that he was still using diapers. (The youngest is 22 months. I am not sure if that was this one or not.) She emphasized the word like it was important. So, I repeated it slowly. She nodded at me and repeated it. So, I came back to my room and looked it up in the dictionary. I can not use this keyboard for the life of me (it is an American keyboard set to type as an international one). So, you will all have to wait until I get the laptop I was issued up and running with the internet before I go teaching you new words in Spanish...especially ones with funny letters in them.

Anyway, our dinner tonight was almost by candlelight. We had the medianos and the grandes (the two older groups of boys) eat at the same time as the peques (the youngest group) just so that no one would be eating in complete darkness due to the power outage. Due to the mountains, the sun does not really just sort of vanishes, taking all the light with it. When I got back to my room, I turned on Christina´s cell phone--which I have not yet put minutes on--and put on the radio. That gave me a sense to work with. I set my flashlight down next to it (off) and proceeded to change for bed. At any rate, I made the music my sense of location. If I wanted to put anything where I would find it again, I put it by the cell phone. And just as I was about to go to sleep and was making one last sweep with the flashlight to make sure I had everything set for a very early bedtime, the power came back on. So, I replied to e-mails, posted a bit on Facebook, and updated here. However, now it is most certainly time for bed.

Hopefully there will be a less lengthy update next time. Oh, and if you were wondering, yes, I am feeling much better. I do have a pretty ragged cough yet and blow my nose a couple times per day, but otherwise I am about back together.